Learning how to identify the various species of Sun Orchid is not an easy task, so I am beginning with the Slender Sun Orchid because it is one that I have (I believe) successfully classified. I’m happy to be corrected by orchid enthusiasts!
While Sun Orchids come in a variety of sizes and colours, the species which grow around here are predominantly shades of blue, purple and mauve. An important identification characteristic is the column in the centre of the flower. In the photograph above, the column is the curved mauve-white part of the flower which is tipped in brown and yellow, and which has two ‘arms’ capped with white hairy tufts. In each species of Sun Orchid, this column is curved slightly differently, and may be either hooded or notched or have specific colours or configurations of hairy tufts. Many of these differences are very slight, and of course there is often a wide variation of appearance within the one species.
Sun Orchids echo their name in their habit. They bloom when it is sunny and the temperature is quite warm – usually over 25 Celsius. This week we had our first really warm day, so I set off with the camera and captured quite a few different species, I think. Among the most common was the aptly named Slender Sun Orchid. The flowers are quite small – mostly between 8 mm to 12 mm across, although my field guide tells me they can be up to 20 mm across.
Hopefully I will have another species of Sun Orchid to show you tomorrow! In the meantime, I will be poring over my field guides trying to find the best illustrations of the various column configuration.